American Revolution flags sold during the Flag Day holiday for 17.4 million dollars

Redden said that during wars of the 18th century, the primary targets in a battle were the opposing commanders and their units' flags, as trophies of victory.

The final sales price for the four flags was well over Sotheby's pre-sale estimate of $4 million ( Ђ 3.18 million) to $10 million ( Ђ 7.96 million). The eventual buyer, bidding by telephone, asked not to be identified, Sotheby's spokeswoman Lauren Gioia said.

Only about 30 Revolutionary War flags are known to exist, and all except the four sold at auction are in museums or other institutional collections, Sotheby's said. Most also are in physical fragments with only bits of historic information available about them.

The four flags, by contrast, are in good condition and their histories were well documented by Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton, a firebrand British officer who captured them in battles in two widely separated locations nearly a year apart.